Introduction: Handmade Chesterfield Love Seat
Picture the scene - You're out browsing furniture stores with your other half and she spies an armchair - and from 20 yards away she declares her love for it, and tells you that she HAS to have it. The seat is tried out, cushions are placed, plumped and re-arranged, and there is a general concensus between us that it is indeed a nice chair, and it would indeed look well beside our fireplace.
Fast Forward 30 seconds to checking the price label and the dreams of cosiness in the living room of our home are quashed as the label reveals that the cost of ownership is far beyond our budget - a snip at £1,650 ($2,162) ... in the sale.
Before walking away I decided to take a few pictures of the chair as I had an idea in my head that if studied the pictures, and researched the internet, I may be able to make something similar as a surprise for my wife at some stage in the future.
This was the start of a project in July 2017 that took over a year to complete.
The first 2 images shown are pictures I took on my phone. The following 3 are images I found online of the chair from the manufacturers website.
Step 1: Planning and Research
By refering back to the images i had taken and from memory I decided to draw a quick sketch of how I remembered the chair. I found dimensions online which gave me the perameters i needed to work within. Manufacturing methods, proportions, fabric quantities etc would all be rough estimates as I had nothing but the images to work from.
I began by drawing out a full scale drawing of how i imagined the seat would fit together. Within this i worked out the height of the arms, the angle of the back, the seat height off the ground and how I could place the necessary pieces together to make it look like what i had seen. I also drew a CAD model using Solidworks to create the parts required, with exact dimensions.
Step 2: Cutting the Frame
The first component to be made was the back legs which run the full height of the chair. I had estimated that these should be cut at a 105°. In order to get the needed height and backward sweep needed in one piece of timber, I used 2x6 scaffolding boards. Again, I wanted to be able to make this as affordably as possible so I used softwood in place of the Beech used in the real chair.
When the back legs were cut, I placed them on the full scale drawing to make sure they matched up as I had intended. Following this, I cut the horizontal seat base. This piece was cut at an angle also and attached tot he upright at the point where the leg becomes the seat back. At this point there is a slight change in the angle. To achieve this junction, I cut a 4mm play template using a sharp Stanley knife and mounted it on top of the piece that had to be mated to the upright. I used a router table with roller bearing to follow the template and cut the 2x4 pine peice i had used for the seat base. This was repeated for both sides.
To hold the sides to the back legs, I used pocket holes and wood glue. The screws held the sides in place until the glue set. The bond created here is very strong using both these methods of joining.
Quality supervision was taken very seriously throughout this project by my 3 year old son!
Step 3: Assembling the Frame
With the 2 sides joined I added a front rail, again using wood glue and held in place with 2 Kreg screws on each side. When the glue had set, I removed the screws and drilled the holes out to 10mm and plugged them with a 10mm dowel. On the back of the chair a length of pine batton was placed at the same height as the front section, to complete the seating space, and to hold the frame together. To add the front feet I added 2 plywood panels in the front corners. Not only will this provide a mounting point for the front legs, it will also strengthen the frame, reducing the possibility of racking from side to side.
Step 4: Curved Back Rail
When i looked back at my pictures I realised that the top of the seat back had a sight curve. To achieve this I used another section of scaffolding timber, shaped by mounting a 4mm template - similar to what i had used previously. On this occassion I cut away by hand the most of what wasnt required, and smoothed off the final piece using a hand plane and flush trim router bit on the router table.
When the part was complete, I attached it to the top of the leg uprights using pocket screws and wood glue.
Step 5: Adding the Arms
The arms on this chair are created in 2 parts- an upright component and a sloped section to the front. I worked out roughly in my head how I thought these sections would work together and maintain the proportions I required to keep the look I was aiming for. I extended the arms down to the base of the chair, to provide additional mounting points and as a result, increase the rigidity. When the placement was settled, I placed smaller batons of pine to attach the arms to the back upright. As before these were all held in place with pocket screws and wood glue.
Step 6: Shaping the Back
The back of the chair will be left open and it has a sloping arch from the head down to the seat base. This was one of the features that attracted me to the chair initially and so I wanted to replicate it as best I could. The sides were cut using 18mm pine, held in place with wood screws and glue. As before, when the glue had dried, the screws were removed and replaced with 10mm dowel. The back was shaped using 9mm plywood, cut every 10mm to a depth of 7mm. This allowed the wood to follow the shape of the side pieces.
Before it was permanently affixed, the button holes were drilled in a diamond like pattern with a 6mm drill bit.
Step 7: Arms & Legs
I managed to source a company in England who manufacture wooden legs, almost identical to the legs on the original chair. These were placed into the corner sections which were added in an earlier step using an 8mm thru bolt. They measured 200mm in height. In order for the chair to recline back to the angle I had planned, I would need to remove height from the back legs. I had intentionally left them slightly longer than required so I could fine tune the angle at this stage.
When this was done I turned my attention to the sloping components at the front of the arms. This required large cuts of pine timber and luckily I had 2 fencing posts left over from a previous project and I was able to use them. They were cut on the mitre saw and attached to the arms and chair base using 51mm pocket screws and more wood glue.
Step 8: Fabric
The manufacturer of this chair also sell fabrics and soft furnishings. I went online to browse their catalogue and found the material they had used on this chair. Two separate materials were required - one for the main seat section and another for the sides and back. In addition to this, several colour variations were required for the buttons. I managed to source a supplier for the fabrics and ordered 4m of the main fabric and 1.5m of the fabric used for the back and sides. For the buttons I ordered free colour samples and made 8 of each colour of button using the samples provided. I have a button maker at home so they were easily put together.
Total cost for fabric - £81.84
Step 9: Making the Buttons
Using the fabric samples i received, i cut them down into suitable circles using the button maker. The round piece of fabric is set into the press with a button front placed on top. It is sunk into place using a wooden plunger. When it has been set into place, a back is set into the top section and both parts are pressed together.
Step 10: Painting the Frame
Before painting the frame i sanded with a 180 grit sandpaper to remove any pencil marks or excess glue that may have squeezed out during the build. Following this i painted the chair using Rust-Oleum Weathered Wood Rustic Translucent Paint in Ash Grey Matt. After this i used a cloth and covered the frame with Dark Oak Briwax.
To finish i applied a layer of High Gloss lacquer spray.
Step 11: Upholstery
I have included here a few snapshots of the first and last stages as i upholstered the chair. I have never upholstered before so it was a learning process as i went. Unfortunately i didnt take as many pics as i would have liked but i plan to do a full step by step Instructable at a later date outlining the full upholstery process.
I used spray adhesive to attach wadding to the face of the side and back panels. When this was complete i added the side fabric using staples and screwed them into place.
After the chair was upholstered, i used a cutting of the fabric as an edge band and held it in place with 20mm tack nails. Luckily I had plenty of help for this stage!
Step 12: Finished Chair
When the edging had been added it was placed into position in the family living room, right by the fire. My wife was out when i brought it in to the house and she was so pleased when she came home and saw it there. The surprise I had hoped for in the begining worked!
It wasnt long however before it was claimed as my sons favourite seat, where he now spends many evenings relaxing!
Total cost of build, including fabric and foam was £196 - roughly 10% of what the cost of the chair was in the shop, at its full price.
Second Prize in the